As humans, we all have a deep-rooted genetic connection to the natural world around us. In fact, our relationship with the outdoors is so powerful, it affects our health and wellbeing, which in turn affects productivity and motivation.
Research by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that by adding just one plant per square mile in an office, employees were 15% more productive than those without plants in their workspace.
So, it’s no secret we are subconsciously stimulated by elements of the outdoors when working.
Some businesses have used this to their advantage by allowing employees to work outdoors, or by bringing the outdoors into the office.
The biophilic design is a growing trend in modern offices. It stems from the word biophilia, meaning a ‘love of nature’, and was popularised by American psychologist Edward O Wilson in the 1980s.
He pointed at how the rapid rise of urbanisation in New York, Tokyo and London amongst other built-up cities, were becoming more and more disconnected from nature.
The biophilic design, therefore, shifts away from old, cubicle style workspaces, to a more open, human-centric approach.
With this in mind, designing an office to have an outdoor area where employees can enjoy more natural light and take in the open views of their surroundings, will naturally invoke positive feelings.
Private outdoor areas within a company’s grounds, or public areas outside office buildings can inspire and soothe the mind, while offering a positive distraction from the desk.
Being surrounded by greenery and natural materials such as wood and stone, or even water features, also has a significant impact on our mental wellbeing and overall health.
Research into the health benefits of working in an environment surrounded by natural elements, carried out by Bill Browning, founding member of the US Green Building Council’s Board of Directors, and Sir Cary Cooper, CBE Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, found an overwhelming increase to employees’ wellbeing.
Working outdoors was found to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity and creativity.
Just by being outdoors an employee will instantly benefit from a higher intake of vitamin D, which keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy, reducing the chance of developing bone deformities such as rickets.
Air quality is also greatly improved outdoors, and the change of scenery can boost motivation.
But it’s not just employee health that benefits from an outdoor workspace. Allowing staff to work outdoors during certain hours of the day, or just when the weather is nice, will free up desks for the option of hotdesking. This is an effective way for companies to increase growth without extra real estate cost.
Productivity can also be enhanced if the outdoor space offers an area that encourages collaboration. Public communal areas can increase the chance of forming links with other departments, or even other companies.
Sustainability can also be improved at businesses which implement outdoor working policies. Not only does working outdoors help to act against climate change by reducing the amount of electricity used indoors, but it can also save a business money and make its brand stand out for its sustainability in the minds of consumers and investors.
Overall, by enabling employees to work outdoors, businesses and organisations should see a natural increase in employee health, wellbeing and productivity, while enjoying the added benefit of having the option to utilise free indoor space to boost profitability.
Credit: Lloyd Coldrick, Managing Director of Cobus